Your round-up of the stories that you should discuss at interview this week.
- Criminal Law
Durham prison to be the first in Britain to open a “jihadi prison block”
Durham prison is the first British prison to open a wing solely for convicted extreme terrorists in the attempt to prevent criminals leaving British jails with extremist views and the radicalisation of other prisoners which is believed to have been linked to creating a “British Guantanamo Bay”. The wing will be known as a “jihadi prison block.” This has been brought about after it has been found that Khalid Masood, the Westminster attacker is believed to have had “an abrupt religious conversation” when he was in Lewes prison. This then led the Masood converting to Islam and now reading the Qur’an every day, he told friends.
Even though the separation of extreme terrorists and having a “jihadi block” has good intentions, Steve Gillan of the Prison Officers Association, has stated that it could create Britain’s own version of Guantanamo Bay, potentially leading to extremists having an “elevated status”. An example Gillan gave to represent his opinion on the matter was Northern Ireland as he said “some loyalist prisoners and some republican prisoners were segregated and what happened was that it gave them a political status. It didn’t work and in fact made the situation worse.”
HMP Frankland has been chosen for a trial due to the number of high risk extremist they already hold; therefore, it could be open by June this year. Another member of the Prison Officers Association, Jackie Marshall, commented back stating that “the unit at Frankland is a separation unit, not a segregation unit, because the prisoners who will be in it are not being punished; they are being held separately.”
Although there have been different opinions, many believe this is a good idea to enforce in the prisons as a Ministry of Justice spokesperson said “Islamist extremism is a danger to society and a threat to public safety – it has to be defeated wherever it is found. Preventing the most dangerous extremists from radicalising other inmates is essential to the safe running of our prisons and fundamental to public protection.”
Read more in The Guardian.
- Employment Law
Deal with Southern Railway rejected by Aslef members
Following the rejection of the first deal in February this year, Aslef union members have just rejected the second deal aimed at resolving the dispute over driver-only trains on Southern Railway.
Under the first proposed agreement, Southern would have been able to run trains without a guard or supervisor on board under certain circumstances.
The Southern strike began in December last year when Aslef members first walked out over the plans, which led to the cancellation of all Southern services
Upon this second attempt to come to an agreement, members rejected the deal by a 51.8% to 48.2%, as opposed to the 54.1% to 45.9% on the first vote.
Similar to his comments previously, Mick Whelan, the General Secretary of Aslef, has said that ‘we understand and support the decision arrived at in a democratic vote’, and has committed to delivering a resolution with their expectations in mind.
GTR (Govia Thameslink Railway), the parent firm of Southern, has expressed their disappointment over the results since they claim that the agreement had the “full support and recommendation” of the leaders of the Aslef union.
What are the next steps? Spokesman Andy Bindon has expressed the need to return into discussions with the drivers to ‘understand the issues which led to this regrettable decision… and try to find a way forward to resolving it’.
Therefore, it seems that the situation is not as close to being resolved as some would hope.
Ofcom proposes new rules for OpenReach
Openreach is a subsidiary of BT which owns and operates the cables that provide broadband access. Numerous other broadband operators use Openreach to provide their customers with broadband services, such as Sky and Talk Talk. However, Ofcom, the telecoms regulator, is proposing to implement new rules which may impact how Openreach operates.
One of these new rules relates to pricing. Ofcom has proposed to cut the price that Openreach can charge for a 40Mbps download speed, with the hopes that this will result in cheaper bills for customers and increase competition in the market. Under the new rules, prices would reduce from £88.80 a year to £66.28 by 2018 and £52.77 by 2020. However, Ofcom does not wish to cap prices that offer a faster download speed, with the hopes that this would encourage competitors to invest in their own ultrafast networks, to increase competition in the sector.
Other proposed rules would require Openreach to fix and install lines faster. For instance, Openreach would be expected to complete 93% of faulty repairs within two working days. Ofcom has stated that these new requirements would need to be met in full by 2021.
- Real Estate
Mortgage approvals fall
Mortgage approvals have dropped for the first time in six months, from 69,114 to 68,315 between January and February. Re-mortgaging approvals have also fallen. According to the Bank of England, this is down to the fact that people are relying too much on their credit cards. The annual growth of credit card spending rose to 9.3% in February, an 11-year high. Economist Alan Clarke suggests people are borrowing to maintain their spending despite rising inflation and the threat of a reduction of real pay. In other words, the real-life wage is reducing whilst prices continue to go up, and we are getting into more and more debt as a result. This is perhaps the reasoning behind the fall in approvals, as banks are trying to avoid another financial crisis like that of 2008. If people are already relying too much on loans from credit card companies, banks will be put off lending even more, based on affordability. Of course, this is not the only factor, with many people wishing to save their money rather than invest it in a property. Jeremy Duncombe, director of Legal & General Mortgage Club, has suggested that these fluctuations in approvals is simply typical of the housing market and that we should not be distracted by them.